A mobile application development platform (MADP) is a type of software that allows a business to rapidly build, test and perhaps deploy mobile apps for smartphones or tablets.
A business can either build its own mobile application development platform or buy one of the many third-party products available on the market. The MADPs that third-party vendors sell typically include features such as mobile backend as a service (BaaS), front-end development tools and management tools for application programming interfaces (APIs). A MADP may also provide native, web and hybrid app development capabilities, as well as mobile application management (MAM) tools for deploying and securing apps.
The term MADP is generally credited to the research firm, Gartner. It seems to have replaced two other terms introduced by Gartner, mobile enterprise application platform (MEAP) and mobile consumer application platform (MCAP).
Major vendors and products
MADP providers include Appcelerator, Appzillon, Apple Xcode, Android Studio, Kinvey, Kony, OutSystems, Telerik, Salesforce, Microsoft's Xamarin and Red Hat Mobile Application Platform.
Kinvey offers cross-platform development for both iOS and Android, while Apple Xcode and Android Studio only build apps in their respective environments. The Red Hat Mobile Application Platform is an open source offering and allows users to build and deploy apps in an Agile environment.
Of these vendors, Kony is notable for being the only one Gartner has recognized in its Magic Quadrant as a leader among MADP providers for five years in a row.
What to look for in a mobile app development platform
Organizations should consider several factors when selecting a mobile app development platform, depending on the type of applications they want to build and whether or not they need to be able to customize them.
The best mobile application development platforms should allow developers to build, test, debug, deploy and maintain apps throughout the applications' lifecycles. MADPs should also have extensive middleware and back-end services that deliver key features, such as push notifications, authentication and data storage.
Developers must also choose between cloud-based or on-premises services, although some MADP vendors offer both. Another consideration is whether to use a codeless or low-code MADP, which don't require developers to have any knowledge of complex code, leading to the rise of what's known as the citizen developer.
Cross-platform mobile app development
Cross-platform mobile app development is the process of building hybrid or native apps that can run on multiple operating systems. A cross-platform tool automatically generates a code for the target operating system, and developers can create a single code base from that.
Developers can choose between different approaches to cross-platform app development, including hybrid mobile app development and rapid mobile app development (RMAD) or codeless mobile app development. Low-code or no-code tools may appeal to organizations that can't afford to hire developers; however, these options don't allow for as much control or customization.